'This £1.3 billion may be a short-term fix, but we need to know where it has come from'

17th July 2017 at 18:05
If this funding boost for schools is money saved from elsewhere in the education budget, and not 'new' money, we will be examining the implications, writes ASCL leader Geoff Barton

We haven’t seen the detail yet, of course, but this is looking like an end of term that’s worthy of cautious celebration.

This afternoon, we saw the education secretary demonstrate what we've long been saying: that if our nation genuinely values education, then it has to fund it. In the midst of the worst teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and with cuts to courses and rising class sizes, funding was the issue that wasn’t ever going to go away.

This wasn’t just about teachers whingeing. It was parents and governors across England making the case on behalf of children.

The announcement of an additional £1.3 billion, in addition to money already pledged over the next two years, with apparent real-term increases for every school, is perhaps a sign that in this fragmented world, education matters more than at some points recently it seemed to.

We will wait to see just how the funding boost works – how precisely it is allocated, how we ensure it gets to the classrooms that need it most, how we make sure there’s a genuine educational impact. We will want to work with the Department of Education on this. 

And if this is money saved from elsewhere in the education budget and not "new" money from the Treasury, then we will be examining the implications.

But the work of Justine Greening and the Treasury today appears to provide a positive short-term fix for education. It then does something else.

It paves the way for something ASCL has long argued for: an end to the iniquitous funding of schools that has left children at the centre of a postcode lottery. The national fair funding formula may now become a reality, whatever the naysayers are saying.

Stabilising current funding should set the scene for a shift to transparent, long-term allocations so that the inequalities in our education system become easier to address.

Ends of terms are always tiring, and often tiresome. Today, school and college leaders will broadly welcome the fact that our joint campaign with other unions, plus a coalition of parents and governors, appears to have been listened to.

Now, perhaps, as we collapse into holidays, we can talk less about funding cuts, job losses and burgeoning class. Perhaps we can cautiously begin to regain some of that optimism that our children and teachers deserve.

Geoff Barton is the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. He tweets @RealGeoffBarton

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